In our report Big Tech Soft Power in Danmark, we have looked back at the last decade, when Big Tech has permeated Denmark at the societal and individual level under the slogans of disruption and freedom of speech. Social media, online games, and other digital products still thrive on a combination of intimate user data and retention mechanisms. Denmark and the EU have been slow to start enforcing legislation.
Now we may have the opportunity to do better with AI. Terms like Chatbots, AI, and generative AI have quickly become part of everyday language. The so-called AI race is in full swing with Big Tech refining their respective technologies. At the same time, the upcoming EU AI law is being finalised. But here, too, Big Tech reportedly has major lobbying powers at play. In Denmark, politicians, educational institutions, and others are pulling their hair out over how AI and the companies behind it should be regulated and standardised. Here it is important to be aware of who is speaking and who the regulation will actually benefit so that we as a society do not repeat the mistakes of the past decade with a lack of regulation and enforcement of social media legislation. It is our hope that this report can help us all become more enlightened about how we together can best ensure democratic power and a healthy balance between all the actors that together make up the welfare state in a time when digitalisation and technological development are in many respects used as a legitimising factor.
How best to ensure this is not something we can provide clear or comprehensive answers to. Below we offer a few ideas for recommendations that have emerged from our research, and which we hope will be supplemented by many more – also by actors who are not affiliated with Big Tech’s self-interest.
– Establish a common standardised way of calculating external funding in the university world – including external funding from Danish and foreign foundations as well as direct funding from individual companies.
– Ensure that all agreements – including bilateral agreements at individual departments – are accounted for in the same way, so that you can get a real overview of Big Tech’s donations to research.
– There should be a requirement for all research results to be tagged systematically so that you can see who has provided financial support. There is no such requirement today – unless they are co-publications.
– Make it mandatory for researchers to disclose their funding sources in databases such as Scopus. This is a relatively new point called funding in Scopus, but it is not a requirement to disclose it. It is only if the researchers themselves remember to disclose it.
– Establish a common set of ethical guidelines for sponsorships at all universities.
Increase public investment in education and research to retain researchers in academia. Especially for AI research, more data and computational resources should be managed by public institutions and reduce the research community’s dependence on Big Tech.
– Conferences and journals should ensure freedom and variety in research work instead of flocking to the topics that Big Tech is interested in for funding.
– One way to get money from Big Tech could be through schemes such as foundations, where it is distributed by an independent board and centrally rather than Big Tech itself appointing media outlets to give money to.
– Updating the Danish media support so that the requirements for media support do not favor the big media. Small media – and not least publicist specialist media – should be able to get media support more more easily, so they don’t have to resort to taking money from Big Tech.
– Introduce clear declaration rules so you can clearly see who has received funding for what – and how much of the total budget.
– Danish think tanks and nonprofits should disclose on their websites whom they receive funding from and how much money they receive.
– A register of Danish think tanks should be created. The names of several think tanks sound as if they are official councils, boards, centers, or institutes.
– If a think tank has collective members, it should be stated who they are and how much they pay for membership.
– Establish a statutory obligation to disclose the financial support Danish think tanks receive and from whom.
In General Terms
– Political advisors should not be able to flex between jobs at the political headquarter, Christiansborg, and Big Tech. We could introduce waiting periods.
– Politicians should systematically record their meetings with employees of Big Tech companies and organisations supported by Big Tech.
– Experts should always declare their political and financial interests – in official councils, boards, expert groups, and in the public press.
– Work on regulation, enforcement, and institutional strengthening in relation to Big Tech and its digital products and services must be stepped up. Also read the 13 recommendations from the Danish government’s expert group on tech giants.
– Pilot privacy-enhancing open source tools in schools.